I first noticed them weeks ago. While out walking my dogs I’d spot a small dead bird on the sidewalk near my building. Days would pass and then another. Then there were two in one day and I came back inside flustered. “That’s it,” I said to my wife Samantha. “It’s a bad omen.”
I’m not one to look for signs, but I tend to believe in them when they appear. With our first child weeks away from his or her due date and an election looming, I tried to push the dead birds from my mind. I could not afford a bad omen at this stage.
As the last of the sunlight faded on election night, Sam and I began to pay attention in earnest. Our laptop screens glowing, we refreshed our web pages as we shook our heads no.
“It’s not possible.”
“This isn’t happening.”
Sleep finally came for me — hours after my wife — around midnight, and we both awoke to her phone ringing at 2:30 that morning. I turned over in bed, tangled in the sheets and my pregnancy pillow. “I’m sure it’s your brother,” I said, “Trump is probably making a speech.” We ignored our buzzing phones and went back to sleep until the sun came up and our dogs started whining for breakfast. I wouldn’t move. I couldn’t move. Sam climbed out of bed and opened the dog crate. When our front door slammed shut I heaved, sobbing, as shock and despair set in. The unthinkable had happened. I rubbed my belly as the baby wriggled. I whispered through my tears, “This isn’t what we wanted for you.”
My mother’s voice was sharp with worry as I whimpered through her morning phone call. “This anxiety can’t be good for the baby. You have to calm down.” My father called minutes later, surely mom had told him I was inconsolable. “Keep your spirits up,” he said. I went back to bed.
Five years ago when my wife’s mother died we locked ourselves in our apartment and ate. We finished entire pizzas and trays of cookies. We binge-watched TV. On November 9th we relieved that anguish. “I know it’s not the same,” I said, “But I feel like someone died.” Sam nodded through bites of pizza. “Nothing compares to losing my mom, but I feel that grief right now. It feels so heavy.” We spoke to loved ones throughout the day, swore off social media then gave in and checked our feeds. We stayed in our pajamas and cried. There was a sudden guilt swimming around in my heart, in my wife’s heart. Parenthood, we know, is a selfish endeavor, but somehow now as two women, it felt dangerous.
There are, inevitably, people in our lives who are Trump supporters. “Nothing’s going to change,” they say, “so don’t worry.” They think we’re being ridiculous. They think he’ll lower their taxes and amend healthcare. They think our fears are unfounded, but I know in my heart that our fears are legitimate. This isn’t an over-reaction to a Republican-run government, this is fear of the incendiary language Trump used to get himself elected, of the violence he incited. His triumph was a call to arms; bigots, racists, xenophobes, homophobes and misogynists have been empowered. One need only to log on onto Twitter or Facebook to see the immediate results; college kids in black-face, reports of threats to Muslim Americans, people of color and women. Things aren’t going to change. Things have already changed.
“You are legally married,” mom says on the phone. “And Sam’s name is going on that baby’s birth certificate. You have nothing to worry about.” I’m not convinced she believes her own words, but she’s trying to be a good mom. Sam’s godmother calls. “You need to talk to a lawyer and make sure your parental rights cannot be taken away.” I sit at my computer, my eyes burning as I stare at the screen. On my refrigerator, a magnet, “Hillary 2016,” holds up a scroll of ultrasound photos of our baby. Our baby. I am scared for our baby. He or she will have two moms in a nation ripe with misogyny. He or she will be born into a time of great uncertainty and we, we never even saw it coming.
We’ve had a hard time reconciling our grief during what should be an exciting time in our lives. In a week or so we are going to be moms and we want to be giddy as we think about the changes ahead. Instead, we’re focused not on lack of sleep and 2am feedings, but on the other changes, the ones that threaten our family. “I feel ashamed,” I admit over dinner. Sam agrees. “What kind of world are we bringing our baby into?”
That weekend I began a conversation with Sam, the first of its kind. “We need a real plan for any possible encounters of verbal assault or violence. This is something we need to discuss.” We have traveled the country and the world together and we have never felt threatened before. Now I feel an encounter is inevitable. Now it’s okay to hate what you don’t know and fear what you don’t understand because one man spewed venom and was elected leader of the free world not in spite of it, but because of it.
I’m not over-reacting when I speak of these fears. I have seen proof of them every hour since Trump was declared the president-elect. But we cannot stay in bed and eat pizza. We must remain visible. We must make our voices heard.
A few days passed and we woke up early one morning. There were clouds drifting across the sky revealing patches of blue. Sam and I went out for a jog. I moved slow as the baby pressed against my bladder. Leaves twirled down from the trees and we turned a bend. I glanced up. “Wow, babe, look at that.” I pointed up at a rainbow arcing perfectly across the horizon. She squeezed my shoulder and smiled, because she knew what I was thinking. Yes, we’re scared, but there will always be fear in parenthood. There is still beauty in this world, and it’s our job to show that to this child of ours. I picked up my pace. This must be a sign.
Laura Leigh Abby is a writer and the creator of 2Brides2Be, an online wedding resource providing inspiration for the modern lesbian bride. Her first book, 2Brides2Be: A Same-Sex Guide for the Modern Bride will be released from ARCHER in 2017. She lives in Beacon, New York with her wife and two Pomeranians. Her website is lauraleighabby.com. You can follow her on twitter: @LauraLeighAbby.
Top photo: Facebook/Donald Trump
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